Vale Coach Wooden

John Robert Wooden died on 4 June 2010 aged ninety-nine. The entry about him in Wikipedia celebrates his life.
This web site has wonderful information about Coach Wooden and includes his Pyramid of Success

This is a TED video from 2001 when John Wooden was ninety-one.
[ted id=498]
In one of the many obituaries written to celebrate John Wooden’s life, Peter Kerasotis notes that:

In 1948, when Wooden accepted UCLA’s head coaching job, he did so after he thought that Minnesota, which was his first choice for a head job, didn’t get back with him. It turns out, though, that bad weather had downed phone lines, which prevented Minnesota’s officials from contacting him. When they finally did, and offered him a job, Wooden had already told UCLA yes, and he couldn’t go back on his word.

In another Bill Dwyre observes of an event a decade ago:

He got a call recently from somebody who wanted a copy of his new book, “WOODEN: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court.” The caller said he needed the book right away, so Wooden got one off the shelf, stuffed some padding in the envelope, packaged it up, taped it shut and went out and mailed it. The man had given Wooden a collect Federal Express number, but Wooden fretted that sending the book that way would be much too costly for the caller. It never occurred to him that few Hall of Fame sports figures prepare mailings for strangers.

Bill Dwyre concludes his reminiscences thus:

On Oct. 14, 2000, he will be 90 years old. Yet he walks me out, shuffling alongside and making sure the gate is open and that I can find my way comfortably. My comfort is his. As I drive away, I remember something he told me weeks ago, a quote from Mother Teresa that he found meaningful: “A life not lived for others is not a life.” And I find myself wondering if there really is another one like him out there, or if this really is as good as it gets.

There are many Coach Wooden stories celebrated in the last week. Many of these are pervaded by his humanity and his profound commitment to education. Mike Krzyzewski‘s eloquence seems to have captured many people’s thoughts:

Today, we’ve lost a giant in all of sport with the passing of Coach Wooden. Quite likely, his accomplishments as a college basketball coach will never be matched. Neither will the impact he had on his players or the greater basketball community. Many have called Coach Wooden the ‘gold standard’ of coaches. I believe he was the ‘gold standard’ of people and carried himself with uncommon grace, dignity and humility. Coach Wooden’s name is synonymous with excellence, and deservedly so. He was one of the great leaders – in any profession – of his generation. We are blessed that the sport of basketball benefitted from his talents for so long. Coach Wooden and his wisdom will be sorely missed.

Photo Credit
Basketball Hall of Fame


  1. Great post Keith. Mike Krzyzewski’s comments echo the comments of just about anyone else eulogising Coach Wooden. What I find so astonishing is that while everyone considers him the ‘Gold Standard’, no one seems to expect any other coaches to behave like him. Its almost as if he set the bar so high that there is tacit agreement its impossible to reach.

    • Yes! My thoughts turned to how we could aspire to the standard. The key for me is the link between education and coaching. I hope that our careers can be enriched by acknowledging the educational and the learning dimensions of spending time with intrinsically motivated people.
      Thank you for visiting the post. I am delighted that your notes last week had a reference to Coach Wooden as the first item.


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